Westminster Mill, Horton Kirby and South Darenth

A water-powered corn mill in the historic county of Kent, England.

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Horton Mill was a traditional site by a large weir, and was the main corn mill in the village following the establishment of the paper mill downstream. The last structure here was another building of white weatherboard with substantial brick extensions. After ownership by Thomas Millhouse and Edward Godden, the structure was sold to Cannon & Gaze in 1902, who rented it to Vavasour Earle of Franks Hall, who established the Niblet Electric Storage Company here in 1903. Vavasour's factory functioned until a disastrous lightning strike in July 1908 burned much of the structure down.

On August 6, 1894 an interesting article in the Miller appeared, which follows:- 'Among the smaller country mills which have been fitted with the roller system, is Horton Kirby Mill, now in the occupation of Mr Edward Godden, who until recently was in partnership with his father at South Darenth Mill. The partnership was dissolved July 1 last year, when the senior partner retired and the business was practically transferred to Horton Kirby. The roller plant is by Robinson and is 2-sack. The mill is a compact little building of two storeys and an attic. The ground floor is devoted mainly to shafting and elevator bottoms, of which there is a row of eleven in pine cases. A large pair of bevel wheels communicate the power directly from the engine to a short intermediate shaft, which in turn drives it to the main pulley. The shaft from which the roller mills on the first storey are driven, is carried by a line of iron pillars which support the floor above and of which the sockets rest on a stone foundation. This consists of the millstones of the discarded plant, which, as Mr Godden observed, are thus not only buried out of sight, but also made to contribute to the stability of the reconstructed mill. At one end of the floor is a receiving hopper, to take the wheat as it is delivered to the mill. From this hopper the wheat is elevated to the top floor where it is passed over a warehouse receiving seperator, and is there conveyed by worms to a series of receiving bins, and conveyed to a wheat grader which grades for the cockle and barley cylinder system, after which operation the wheat is treated by a Robinson brush, and then taken to the clean wheat bin ready for feeding to the first break. The system of gradual reduction used in this mill is of four breaks and six reductions which are effected by five double roller mills, that are ranged in a line on the first floor. The second floor is given up to dressing machinery. Here are five centrifugal reels, each two sheets long, having a diameter of twenty inches. On the top floor are three rotary scalpers. The mill is driven by both steam and water power. The latter is a breastwheel, from which considerable power can be derived. This wheel is now chiefly used for driving the wheat cleaning machinery, but, if necessary, the water power can be readily connected to the mill plant proper. The upright shaft of the water wheel (?) was not taken out when the mill was reconstructed, and is now used to transmit power by means of a crown wheel, bevel gear and an intermediate shaft to a pair of millstones on the first floor which Mr Godden uses to grind wholemeal and barley. The engine house is a distinct building but adjoins the mill with which it communicates. The engine is a beam engine built by Messrs. Eaton & Ames, Engineers, London and is fed by a Galloway boiler. The patent flour produced here has been given the name 'Baker's Pride'.'

A few years after this date, the breast wheel was replaced by a turbine from Franks Hall by Vavasour Earle. In 1914, the mill was vacant, and at this point it was rented by Walter Millen, who rebuilt the complex in brick over the next few years as a bootlace factory, using both the turbine and steam power to operate the gearing. Just before the war all the remaining corn milling machinery was removed for the war effort. In 1918 the business had prospered and at this time, the mill was renamed Westminster Mill, as the bootlaces sold from here had labels depicting the Houses of Parliament on them. The business continued up to 1952, when the buildings were sold for light industrial use. Later Walter Millen bought back the turbine house and weir and restored the turbine, which remained in fine condition in the early 1990’s, and capable of generating electricity. He also fitted a tiny waterwheel at the weir, capable of turning the sluice gear. The steam mill was demolished in 2001, to make way for housing. By 2007 the weir was becoming overgrown, although the turbine house appeared to still exist.

Full details

Alternative names Horton Mill
Power source Water
Mill type Watermill
River Darent
Mill function Corn mill
Archive ID 8464
Location Horton Kirby and South Darenth, Sevenoaks
Historic county Kent
Country England, United Kingdom
NGR TQ 560 685
Latitude/longitude 51.39409500, 0.24090503



  • Alan Stoyel, Mills Archive Foundation Trustee


Rob Cumming, May 2016


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